March 2, 2022

How Vacation Rentals are Influencing Destination Marketing with Jennifer Barbee

How Vacation Rentals are Influencing Destination Marketing with Jennifer Barbee

On today's episode we are joined by Jennifer Barbee, CEO of Destination Innovate and a dynamic leader who has worked with over 400 hospitality and destination brands. She has been credited with many innovative firsts in the industry; including the first personalized destination website, tapped to lead digital account strategy for the first inbound travel campaign for the US Department of Commerce and the first destination campaign to be used as a Facebook Business Case study. She is a contributor and member of the Forbes© Agency Council and a popular speaker on innovation and strategy for travel brands.

Topics we cover:

  • How branding has evolved for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) over the past decade
  • Importance of including residents in the overall strategy of a destination
  • How the consolidation of vacation rental companies has affected destinations
  • Shifting perspective on competition - should we be looking inwards or outwards?
  • How vacation rental companies can leverage their local DMO to increase the reach and exposure of their businesses 
  • What effects the Metaverse, E-sports and gaming will have on destinations and tourism businesses

Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/C4qbrrmmSrw

CONTACT JENNIFER BARBEE
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferbarbeeinc/
https://destinationinnovate.com

CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Podcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel

Transcript
Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real lemon of vacation rentals. I'm Alex. And I'm Annie. And today we are diving into a topic that we have kind of teased up a little bit so far on the show and Annie and I are very excited to dive into it. destination marketing. We've got a true destination marketing expert with us today we have Jennifer Barbie who is the CEO and founder of destination innovate. Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Barbee:

Thank you. I'm so excited to be here with you guys today. I love your podcast.

Alex Husner:

Oh, thank you. Thank you. The three blondies for those watching on YouTube. It's not Simon but Jennifer today. Thank you so much for joining us. And, you know, as I mentioned, this is a topic that Annie and I are very interested in. And we're trying to figure out ways that we can connect the dots between the destination marketing organizations and vacation rental businesses, because I'm sure as you've seen, vacation rentals really saved a lot of destinations in the last couple years and the popularity just through the roof.

Jennifer Barbee:

Right. Absolutely. I think destinations are just really embracing and recognizing that because before vacation rentals weren't, you know, with the bed tax issues before and then when bed tax got worked out? Still the hotel years are usually sitting on their board. Yeah, in a slide to that one segment of hospitality for so long. And really embracing vacation rentals, you're right about definitely saved them through that time. But also, you know, just with the with the trends moving about remote workforce and people working from anywhere, vacation rentals are continuing to be a primary need for destinations to embrace.

Annie Holcombe:

Yes, it's exciting to see and Alex and I talked about it with a lot of people that people are like this, this whole business is new. And we're like, No, this has been around literally for hundreds of years. But we've I mean, I've been in it since the late 90s. No 2000. So it's been around for a long time and to finally see people recognize it. I hate that it took Corona to do that. But it certainly was a blessing for our industry. But before we dive into deeply, I'd love for you to tell us a little bit about your Genesis through the industry and how you got to be where you are what drew you to hospitality, I noticed in looking at your background that you had gotten a degree in cultural anthropology. So I had to look that up. No idea what that was. Fascinating. So what I would throw at you to start is Is this where you thought you would be without degree?

Jennifer Barbee:

Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You know, I was I'm a child of the 80s. I'm a Gen X er. So for me, I just got pulled into history from just the more like the salacious and the fun of it. And I thought I was going to be Indiana Jane, I actually started archaeology. Because I realize you don't you aren't Indiana Jones, you're digging in the dirt the whole time and I'm a girly girl from Texas. I don't want my nails dirty. Cultural Anthropology. But actually I started in the tourism industry before I even got into college. I just happened to be one of those people who was a nerd and got my first trs 80 Color Computer at night.

Annie Holcombe:

Wow. I remember that. And it really

Jennifer Barbee:

just kind of taught myself how to code and basic. And by the time that came around, advertising agencies were moving from, you know, the light box print to digital graphic designing and things like that. And I just happen to have a relative who had who knew somebody who had an agency, who hired me part time to do a little bit of computer work, did that for a while. And then actually first did that for guest quarters. I don't know if you guys remember who that was because they're not there anymore. But they were a big hotel group. So that was my first preview of that. When I was in college, I kind of got called back and was doing both at the same time to build websites, because that's when websites started coming out. So I actually started as a programmer, and my very first website was Las Vegas.

Alex Husner:

Wow. Oh, my gosh.

Jennifer Barbee:

I will say thankfully, not alone, definitely a team. But that was projects I worked on. Yeah, my first my first move into DMOS. And it was great because I got to have experience with big ad agencies like r&r partners, I was there when they did what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So really, row seat two things that people just didn't see at that age. And it just propelled me to move more into the destination world. The agency I was working for at the time, was really the only agency catering to digital and destinations. So I just kind of wrote that up and you know, got my way in the industry really got introduced with DMOS in the digital space, left that agency in 2006 and since then have been on On my own, I've worked with a little over 400 destinations and travel industry kind of clients. So a little bit of everything, I guess a, I don't want to say a master of any pretty much a good jack of all trades.

Alex Husner:

Wow. It's amazing to me. I mean, the destination marketing umbrella. It's actually it's a pretty it's a small industry even though it's vast, it's small at the same time. And I feel like whenever I go to any of these events, it's like everybody, they everybody knows each other. Like, that core group that works at the, you know, CVB DMO level nationwide. It's, uh, you know, it's it's a great atmosphere. And that's awesome. I didn't know that that was your background at that point. But

Jennifer Barbee:

yeah, it's a it's a great community. And really, the testament to my longevity in this industry has been, yeah, having those relationships. That's definitely the the reason that I've been here 30 years.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, interesting.

Annie Holcombe:

Just one thing that we talked about that the common thread, I think through hospitality as a whole, whether it be DMO, or hotels or vacation rentals is it's the relationships, those relationships, foster business relationships with foster business growth. And really, I think those of us that have been in any segment for a long time, it really goes back to those relationships. And, you know, for me, that's, that's how we got you on the show is I had a relationship with you from way back in the day, when you were working with the Panama City Beach CVB. So I love I love that you you have these relationships that

Jennifer Barbee:

have kept you going to absolutely, thank you. Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

I did have a question actually related to that kind of going through where your career went. So we met and again, I don't want to put a date on it, because it just, I mean, not that you didn't date as with the computer reference there. But we so I was on the Marketing Committee for the Panama City Beach, CVB. And you were doing a lot of their digital media. And I think that that was about the time when digital media just was really coming to the forefront of what really was destinations really needed to do. And I do remember sometimes when he would come in, and we were like, What is all this stuff? Like, this is crazy. We don't get this, you know, I was still working on like my flip phone, you know? So it was like, just that just how that has evolved? I think how do you how do you see the evolution of digital media? where it is today? And how do you help your partner's kind of obviously cut through the noise, but there's so much going on digitally? from social media, you know, video, audio, everything. How do you help them navigate that? Well,

Jennifer Barbee:

I think it all comes around the idea. And I will data's here because that was 2008.

Alex Husner:

Oh, and what you guys saw sounds about right. Like you

Jennifer Barbee:

guys thought was crazy was the idea. So this comes to really to your answer here is it's about the idea like how much further Are you going to go down that path and your competition. And for PCB, we built the first personality driven website, right in the destination industry. I was crazy. It was great. It was free. The free like Facebook quizzes, you know, pre all of that. You went in, you took your own quiz. And you were like sandy bottom bunch, like a family or in the whole website changed.

Annie Holcombe:

Wow, it was so much fun to work on with you. But it was at the time. It was like, what Wait a minute, how is this going to even work? How are people going to interact with this? It was really interesting.

Jennifer Barbee:

I am used to being the crazy one. But that's the to your question. That is what people have to do in digital now. Because it's everywhere and DMOS especially and I'm sure vacation rental owners as well get over with the amount of platforms Okay, now do we have to do tick tock now? Do we have to do this? What are we doing with Snapchat? Do we get to be on there? We're going they're going a mile wide and an inch deep. And I think that is the threat. And the worst strategy to have. I think the biggest The best thing is to get with the idea first, then choose the proper channel. I don't think you have to be everywhere. I would mind if a DMO or a vacation rental only had one social media profile. Really, if they did it right. And just do it really, really well. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah, it's when you said 2008 That just really hit a bell with me too, that 2008 is actually when I first came and was working, I was working at an advertising agency too. And came in to sell condo world on some digital marketing things. And one of the things I was selling them on was doing us handling PPC for them. And they hadn't done PPC to that point. And I remember Roy saying, you know, nobody clicks on those ads. Like I'm not spending money on that. That's ridiculous. And and even if people did click on um, how do you know, it's not your competition that's just over there just clicking away. And but to your point, I mean, you're you're selling an idea, right? So I had to build that relationship with them and get them to understand, okay, if we want to move or if you want to move into the digital era, you got to trust me that this is definitely something that I feel is going to strongly change the business for the best and certainly did. And you know, years later, we spend hundreds of 1000s of dollars on paper. And it's the most amazing, expensive, but it's definitely you know, the best ROI in terms of advertising that we do. But yeah, I mean from 2008, which was not that long ago really in the grand scheme of things. It's you know, it feels like light years ago, but a lot has changed for sure it

Jennifer Barbee:

has it has. But that arc has been interesting too. Because in the beginning, you know, with a DMA, with the exception of the ones that there are agents he already had like a Vegas because they kind of get it there forward. Yeah, most destinations, they didn't even want to pay for a website. So we'd have to go out to the stakeholders to the hoteliers? Yeah, to the businesses to get them to buy in a little bit and funded ourselves. Yeah, so we went out to fund the beginning of my career to now people are just rowing and irresponsibly, to be honest with you throwing money at Digital without being strategic about

Alex Husner:

it. Right? Yeah, well, I think it's to your point, it's like, it's almost like FOMO, that they feel like they have to do everything, or else they're not being good marketers. And it's like, you really don't. And it is it's unbelievable. Every time I go to our, you know, CVB meetings, there's always something new that we're doing, we're looking at, there's so many different vendors in it. And it's a little some of the things are different than what we use here at conda. World. So a lot of it, I kind of feel like I'm in that boat that I'm like, Whoa, this is different stuff that I'm not used to. And, you know, you just you really have to use your best judgment and discernment to Mm hmm. That's one Amber hurdles, words, right, any discernment for this year, to make sure that you're making the right decisions based on what your CVB needs, what your company needs, what you know of it, not just because it's the latest and greatest trend on what people should be doing. Absolutely. Yeah, interesting. So one of the things that we've also been talking quite a bit about, on this show is branding, within vacation rentals. And I'm interested to hear your take on how branding has evolved within destination marketing over the years. Because I think, at the end of the day, I mean, the brand is if you have a strong brand, and you build it up properly, I think you It allows you not to have to be on, you know, take that approach where you're just spread so thin, and you're just involved in everything. But you really you're doing the right channels the right way, but And how have you seen branding evolve in the last decade?

Jennifer Barbee:

Well, branding is one of those loaded words, it means something different to everyone, right? Or, you know, like you could talk to some more old school marketers, they still think branding is their logo and their style guide and their Yeah, font and all of that. But branding is really much more of an experiential type of situation now. So I think the experience driven branding, how I've seen it really evolved with CMOS that I'm really proud of is not getting stuck to tagline being your branding or your images, your your logos, but really evolving that, because branding needs to move just like a child growing up, they're not going to be they're not gonna be eating the same thing when they're five, when they're 10, when they're 15, and so forth. So branding needs to evolve. And I see that happening. I see a lot of DMO brands starting to really embrace pop culture a lot more in their branding, which I think is very important. And I think you tagged us in one of those, it was Helsinki and it's kind of that you know, kind of that cheeky sassy Wendy's, you know, type of throwdown conversation. So I say the DMO branding really being more comfortable, and less corporate and less measured about what they're saying. And I think that's what's really helping with the branding, and evolving their community and branding, so much more so with vacation rental owners, you know, they had been, again, doing that with hotels for so long, but really just kind of taking orders from the hotels now that vacation rentals, not only save the industry, with with the, with the occupancy, but also have opened up a lot of DMOS minds to how to work with their smaller stakeholders that they're just as important or can be more important. Same thing was shop local, you know, local businesses, mom and pops became hugely important, you know, because of the pandemic and I think thankfully so. So the branding now has extended to the smaller stakeholders in a lot of destinations where, you know, the the vacation rental owner, the shop owner, the restaurant owner is also embracing and marketing the holistic destination brand, as well as their own.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I think you've got it spot on there. I think branding is becoming more of it's not just the outward tourist facing side of things, it is the local, you know, people that live the residents, you know, and the stakeholders here. And we're seeing that because so many people are relocating to these big destinations that mean relocation and Myrtle Beach over the last couple years has been unbelievable. We're like the number three new home market in the country right now. So with with all that you've got new people moving here that they don't understand that the reason that they have these great restaurants and shops and everything else is because of tourism and tourism is 100% our lifeblood and the Myrtle Beach area at least. But you know, making sure that you know that's that's a huge effort for us at Myrtle Beach CVB right now is making sure that the residents understand that and that they also know you know, their participation in the brand is very important, you know and but and we want to make sure that we're representing their needs and their wants and why they moved here too. But it's it's a holistic view that I think is coming to fruition now. More so than ever.

Jennifer Barbee:

And I'm so glad you brought up residents because that's something I didn't mention, but is I think, profoundly important. Yeah. And of course, again, during the pandemic destinations, really embrace the residents and in talking to the residents and letting them know who they were, because in most cases, most residents and even long term residents don't get what a DMO is, right? They think it takes taxes out of their pocket. Yeah. So you know, that education piece for residents is supremely important. And I saw a lot of, you know, destinations move into that one of one of the situations or one of the clients we worked with even pre pandemic was Flagler Beach in Florida. And they were worried about, you know, they had, you know, residents who've been there a long time, their tourism was booming, they got a lot of flack about it. So we did a, an event and a brand activation or a resident activation, if you will, for an event called turtles, tacos and tourism. Oh, nice. So the residents came out with this big block party, they had these the turtles, because they have art installation of sea turtles. And they unveiled a new one. And then we had taco trucks. And we had you know, kiosks, to play games and what they know about tourism and what tourists do for them. Yeah. attacchi tourist contest. So it was great. Yeah. And it really changed the minds of the residents. And I think things like that embracing the residents can be your best friend ambassador to

Alex Husner:

Yeah, or worse, right? Because, you know, they vote and so that's, that's very important to make sure that, you know, they are on board with thanks, I think, you know, events like that, that just makes sense. But you've got to have them on your side. And the regulation side of everything for vacation rentals right now is certainly a hot topic for, for our industry. And there's a lot of destinations that you get one bad, you know, member on City Council, where you get, you know, too many residents that are against tourism, and you know, that can wreck an industry. Amy high note on one of our podcasts had said that she she asked the manager, you know, when do you when are you going to decide to sell or when is the time to sell? And they said when the destination turns on you. And I thought that was a really poignant statement. Because in a lot of the cases, it's like, you know, we're seeing that happen. And it's just heartbreaking for people that have been in the industry for so long, but that, you know, the rug is literally being pulled out from under them. Mm hmm.

Jennifer Barbee:

Yeah, I think a lot, especially from a destination standpoint, like 50% of the job is constantly political. Mm hmm. And then 50% is probably kind of where you should be. Yeah, it is. But you're right one, you know, one city council member or one really loud resident one, something like that. So getting in front of that, you know, and making so much so many cheerleaders around you so that when that one squeaky wheel comes along, the squeaky wheel gets booted not you.

Alex Husner:

Right, exactly. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

What is your recommendation for just the vacation rental? If you are working with vacation rental owners or accompanies within a market? How would you tell them to best engage with their DMO?

Jennifer Barbee:

So the first thing I would do if I had if I owned a vacation rental in a new destination areas is I would try to find out who the players are, of course, you want to know your contacts there. You know, are there any partner events coming up that you can attend or just reaching out having coffee with them? You know, finding out I would as a as a vacation rental owner first asked what is the destination need? Like I would ask them first, like what do you need? Where are you marketing? Because most destination most stakeholders come to destinations with what can you do for me? Well, you're not booking for me. So they come with a wrong attitude, in my opinion. So I feel like coming in a place of service. Because if you're offering to help the destination, they're going to be way more apt to think of you top of mind when promotions come up.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

yeah, I think that, you know, just having been in Panama City Beach, when it went through its growth and went from hotel, you know, to more vacation rental, lopsided to some degree until recently, there was so much animosity in the market, in that it was you know, I had been on the hotel side. So there was several hotel players that kind of controlled the purse strings, if you will, the decisions, they had all the people on the boards, and so on vacation rentals kind of flip the script on, um, I don't think that they really the destination didn't know what to do at the time, because it was just it was just a big upheaval. But again, the animosity that ensued was just really, it was interesting to watch and be a part of because, again, I've always tried to be sort of the diplomat in the conversation of like, you know, what, there's, there's a solution for both of us. And I think that there was just this sense of like, well, the vacation rentals are sucking the business out of the hotels, and they're keeping us from being the success that we were knowing that a lot of the hotel yers had actually sold their businesses to people that were building vacation rentals. So it wasn't like it was happening overnight. And anybody pulled the rug out of out from them. So there there has to be a lot of PR that happens between those segments in business and in some larger markets. I would think

Jennifer Barbee:

it is it is and even in smaller markets too, but I think I've got to put that on and I love my hotel industry partners. Many different hotels, but I've just had to be straight up about this. They didn't change their product fast enough to meet demand. That's another reason that vacation rentals have really taken over because everyone's tired of staying in the same four wall hotel room since the 1950s. Right? Yeah, from Malaysia perspective, it's their own fault. Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

yeah, absolutely. But it is interesting to see that the, the hotel segment is trying to dive headfirst into vacation rentals. I mean, you see Marriott with their homes and villas? Oh, yeah, you know, I know our company lexicon, our channel manager. So we work directly with the channels, and we're working with them and their team has been really great. But the one thing I will say is, again, the adaptation to what people really want was slower. And I think they're still trying to figure it out. They're still trying to understand how to serve up that type of product. They're trying to understand how to price that type of product. They're trying to understand how to message that type of product. So it's, it's an evolution, but I think that there's minds on both sides of the conversation that if everybody will meet in the middle and have a conversation, a true open conversation, there's no telling where you could take any destination with the collaboration between the two, for sure, for

Jennifer Barbee:

sure. But I think I think what's not going to help that at all is just a consumer appetite, of more authenticity. I mean, you have a younger audience who's not as big on you know, you've got to if you look at your older audience, they want to respect the brand know the brand, okay, I'm always gonna stay at a Marriott, for instance. So they're going to be more apt to the vacation rental inventory from someone like a Marriott, but most of you know, our generation younger, we want to support level we want to support something unique. We want a smaller, more authentic experience.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, yeah. Again, it goes back to that experiential travel, you're not getting that in a hotel. Now, you might get that in the hotel resort in the Caribbean, where they can bring in some stuff, you know, from outside the market that you Yeah, participate in, but definitely not in a hotel.

Alex Husner:

I think there's room for everybody there and more ism is a massive industry in most markets. And I think there's, there's reasons for why people visit and when they need certain types of inventory to stay in and when they need other types of inventory. But, you know, I know, one thing our market has done really well, I think, and Myrtle Beach is that we are very collaborative here. And we've kind of had to be has to be honest, that our CVB is funded it you know, there are stakeholders that are very important to the success of that, and we all work really hard to, you know, make sure that we're able to get the funding that we need and build the program's to make our destinations successful. But you know, it's almost like, the mentality we've adopted here is that it's not we're not competing against each other, we're competing against others, all of us are competing against other destinations, you know, and I think right now, we're definitely seeing that we see in Myrtle Beach, that there's a shift, it seems like it's every other year, I swear that I don't have the specific statistics on this. But what from what we've seen, it seems to be true that it's our lot of our guests, they switch between going to the mountains, and they get to them, they go to the beach, right, and we see you know, in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, we have partner of resorts that we work with out there and and we do see that from a high level, but you know, it's it, that's, that's tough, but embracing the local collaboration, I think really, really helps. And then knowing that, okay, we need to be focusing our efforts on how can we be the destination of choice versus, you know, me competing against another vacation rental company down the street, that's not necessarily the best use of our time, it the better use of our time is to collaborate and make Myrtle Beach, the, you know, destination of choice.

Jennifer Barbee:

I totally agree. I think it's the destination level where most that competition really lies. But also, I think, you know, we've been talking about leisure, but there's a huge opportunity and what's evolving is the business traveler now, you know, that's where hotels really, really big flags really hurt to was losing that, you know, everyday business traveler, as you know, companies are putting you on the road as much. However, a business traveler is now being redefined by the remote worker by the work anywhere kind of person. So that's a great opportunity for destinations and vacation rentals to come together. And really think about the strategy for what does that remote worker, what does that evolving business traveler look like? And how can we be their choice? Yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

I was gonna ask about that. How are you coaching your your partners to embrace that work, you know, those people that are coming in for more than a vacation, they're coming in to be a resident and whether it be for 30 days, or 60 days or 90 days. But sometimes, again, to Alex's point about people moving I mean, Panama City Beach, they're building an Margaritaville development that is going to have 6000 homes, and those are people that are relocating or owned vacation properties here and decided that they don't want to live in their oceanfront home. And so again, the type of traveler is evolving. So for you as a destination marketer, how do you help your partners navigate that? Well, that's where

Jennifer Barbee:

destination marketing organizations have to think about collaboration within their area too, because now we've got residents or future residents, so they need to be collaborating with their city with their EDC with their Chamber of Commerce. So I've seen a lot More happen multi agency, which usually doesn't necessarily happen in in traditional destination marketing, but you know things in now it's incumbent on a destination because a destination does have a bigger brand to a potential visitor or potential resident than maybe the city or the chamber does. So they're going to land on that destination page, or they're going to find the visit, you know, whatever page before the rest. So I'm advising my destination to have that propensity, that if you've got a visitor's guide, you got a meeting planner guide, you need to have some sort of remote working some sort of, you know, remote worker guide or future resident guide, or you know, that sort of thing, because they need things that, you know, a leisure traveler doesn't need, they need business services, they might need a place other than a Starbucks that they want to work, they might need fractional office, they might need, you know, support for homeschooling, there's so many things that a remote worker could do. So for me, a destination has to be building out that library of how to help

Alex Husner:

them. Yeah, it's interesting to Myrtle Beach is one of, I think only four or five in the country that our chamber and CVB are one entity. And one of the other ones that is like that is North Myrtle Beach, which is actually where our office is located. So our two, we have two CVBS that are also there, CVB and a chamber DMO all in one. But it's interesting that there's not more that are like that, because I feel like our model works very well. But it does because it supports the residents side, the local business side through the chamber efforts, but they're working so closely with the destination that it for us it works great, but have you have you ever worked with any others like that, in your experience? There

Jennifer Barbee:

are there are some smaller ones that that work out like that, probably not at the you know, the Myrtle Beach level of you know, tier one destination but and the smaller destinations. Allen Convention and Visitor's Bureau is actually a department under the city. Okay. So they actually work really well, obviously with the city when the EDC and then they tap into the chamber when they need be. I think the chambers are the ones that isolated chambers are really hurting.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Oh, definitely. Definitely. Yeah. Cuz I mean it, you know, the shift in business and how people find local businesses has changed so much. I mean, you're not necessarily going to the chamber website. That's not that used to be that way that people were using chambers. But that's, that's they have to be more creative with their offerings. And I think the chambers are exceeding or excelling are doing that. But for sure, yeah. Interesting. Where do you say, you know, I know one of the challenges that DMOS and CVBS have, obviously is being able to report ROI back to their stakeholders. And that's a challenge because there are some there are some that you can actually book properties right on the website. Or some programs that do that we don't but what are you seeing in your experience it?

Jennifer Barbee:

I'm glad you mentioned that when it was that question in the beginning, because that has forever been the issue with destinations and what stakeholders think of them? Yeah, I think they're an OTA right. A destination will never be an OTA and shouldn't be put. It's not supposed to be Yeah, no, no, yeah, if they happen to offer booking, that is just a just a courtesy, I would never consider that a main KPI. Right. And for ROI for destinations, I think that shifted from a marketing perspective, instead of looking at return on investment to return on advertising span. So an ROI s is how I look at it from a marketing perspective for the for the top level, like business KPIs, that something I think they have to rethink. So those KPIs to me would be more about collaboration, like what were you able to do, what kind of programs wrought some impact that hadn't happened before? And I do like what bandwango is doing out in the marketplace with

Alex Husner:

someone I was thinking about that they've it's kind of like a hybrid booking model, right?

Jennifer Barbee:

Well, it's like, it's like a digital coupon. Okay, so you can track you know, we've worked with them with a couple of destinations, so you can track people who sign up for it, they download the app, then they go redeem it at different local businesses, those redemptions have kind of $1 value associated with them. So there's some economic impact numbers that come out of that. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, that's, that's a good way to do it. For sure. Because, I mean, really, I mean, the the DMOS role, what it should be is to inspire travel, right? I mean, it's supposed to be to get the, you know, the, the wider net there of people that want to come to the destination. And I think it's easy to fall victim to, you know, because we have to show ROI, or, you know, a lot of people still want that, that they want to go down that route of okay, we have to have the direct advertising programs that I can show you exactly how many clicks you got, and this and that. But really, you know, I think it's spinning wheels, because the DMOS are supposed to be there as the inspiration, you know, to get the guests to choose our destination, like we were saying earlier, it's that's the, that's the competition. It's other destinations. So,

Jennifer Barbee:

from an ROI perspective, I think it gets lumped you mentioned clicks so I like that you did that because I think it's all lumped together in a, you know, the average person can understand click. But what I think is important about breaking that out I mentioned ROA s. But I think a lot of destinations are still challenging themselves are still challenged with really being able to understand the difference between marketing, advertising and public relations. And those all have different types of KPIs. Yep.

Annie Holcombe:

So where do you see, I guess, out of coming out of COVID, and you know, people have really had to pivot their messaging and how they, how they market their destinations? Where do you see things going? This year, but and beyond? I mean, do you think that there's going to be a monumental shift in how people are marketing destinations to be more all inclusive to multiple levels of travel types of traveler and accommodations? Or do you think that it's going to level off when things I say get back to normal? But we've been saying back to normal for a year and a half?

Jennifer Barbee:

Yeah, I think that's a great question. And I think that, you know, unfortunate crisis brings about a lot of innovation, because you have to be innovative. I see people already abandoning that. So what I'm afraid of, for 2021, I think I wrote something about this on an article last year, but I feel like 2021 was kind of, for lack of a better word, a thirst trap, for travel, because it was naturally there's pent up demand. So you're going to get people from all walks coming in, and 2021 still happening and 2022 At some point, because the economy moving to and travel being a privilege and not a right. That's, that's going to be our numbers in these two years, I think are tricking us to be honest with you. So I think there needs to be a long term shift into innovation. And I'd already be looking at what are we doing for 2025? Yeah, I'd be I'd be down the road and strategy, if I were them.

Annie Holcombe:

Well, and one of the things we talked about with Amy hyena again, was the lack of marketing that was being done in general, that people were so complacent, because the demand was so overwhelming, that they were like, well, I don't need to turn and my ad spend on I don't need to do anything, and that they're not thinking that they're gonna have to and it's just again, this, you know, I look at some of the data that I see on my side of the conversation, and you look at the second half of this year, and it starts to really drop off. And I don't know that people are prepared for that. So we've tried to coach people in that, you know, it's fine to be have your highest price out there and not be doing a lot of ads, but it's fine to not do anything. But if you're not out there at all, all of a sudden, that funnel is going to turn off and where are you going to be?

Alex Husner:

And I think, you know, one thing that a lot of chamber or CVBS ran into in the pandemic was, I mean, literally, you know, the, the money ran out, right? I mean, they didn't have money to advertise, and they weren't going to be getting the accomodation taxes, they weren't going to be getting, you know, the advertising programs there. But the COVID recovery, you know, bills have really helped. That's, that's something that this year, I think tourism is just gonna be such a massive year in 2022. And I think a lot of that is because now these these organizations, they have money to market again, and a lot of them didn't even have that in 2021. So I mean, they were down and out for 2020 and 2021. We had enough reserves that we were able to keep marketing throughout the pandemic, we didn't stop anything for for Myrtle Beach. And, you know, there are some other CVBS that took the same course. And I think that really helped us that we gained a lot of market share. And for our company, condo world, and we did the same thing. You know, we followed what they did, we kept our marketing out there. And we gained market share, because of doing that over VRBO and Airbnb and booking and the OTAs that weren't spending any money at that time. And, you know, we had to change our messaging for sure, you know, on both both sides on the chamber or CV, sorry, CFPB and condo world. But if you're keeping your message out there when others aren't, there's probably the best tactic that you can get to gain market share.

Jennifer Barbee:

Absolutely. And I think also, to that point, when the, you know, when COVID relief money came in, yeah. And destinations found themselves with more money, you know, just like out of a crisis like BP oil spill did with PCB and we working with them, when you get that influx, the natural reaction is okay, let's get this big campaign together. But that's not savings, right? That's just going out and spending. So then what happens when that's gone, and just like we talked about those trends start to shift, like I would look a lot more and talking on the other side of my mouth is I am an advertising agency, but I would actually put the money more into strategic development and community and content in organic right, last longer,

Annie Holcombe:

that it's interesting, just on that new, like, they've put out some numbers from some of the smaller destinations along the Panhandle here and you know, some of the ones like golf in Franklin County that are these little destinations, and they generally don't have any money to spend. So they just always a part of like the larger, great, great Northwest or the Northwest Florida co ops or visit Florida, but they had, you know, 70% increase in their bed taxes. So all of a sudden they're looking at a at a windfall of you know, $2 million in bed tax and what do we do with it? Well, the problem is, like you said, they're likely going to spend it all without a plan and then come two years from now when that funnel turned off, they have no money and no plan in place for the longevity of growing that. And so it is an interesting and interesting situation that I think some of these smaller destinations are in. And if they're not engaging an agency like yours, you know, whether it be big or small, they're gonna find themselves in a bad state.

Jennifer Barbee:

Right? Yeah. And I would say that's like lottery winners, like how many of them end up broke? Right. Yeah, that's, that's the problem. And that's why I think, you know, for us, of course, we offer advertising, but we really offer the strategic direction, which I think is is more like putting some money in your savings account, you know, rather than spending that cash are putting on your credit card, right? Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

On that note, I'd love to give it a try to low lottery money. But I

Alex Husner:

yeah, I've got a question for you, Jennifer. You had recently put out an article talking about a DMOS. And their role in the metaverse and virtual tour or virtual tour operators. Can you talk a little bit about that? I think it's super interesting. And I know it's something that we're looking into and planning here, but just like your take on it.

Jennifer Barbee:

Yeah. So this is this is my new big. I'm a crazy person I'm wearing. But I'm telling you, this is gonna be the drum that I bang all year because the metaverse isn't new. It's just knew because we heard about it from Mark Zuckerberg. But the metaverse isn't new. The Oculus and virtual reality has been around for a long time gaming if your kids play Roblox or fortnight. That's all. That's all the metaverse so we are going to be consuming more and more, especially with the younger generation virtual content. For me, it's more of a question than the answer. And that's why when I put that together, instead of saying, here's the trends, you have to do it. I'd rather put the thought in people's mind of you know, how do we consider this? So from a Metaverse standpoint, if a destination is really defined by boundaries, and bed tax, how the heck are they going to play in a virtual world? So maybe those are, you know, for me some ideas that spark is, you know, I want to visit New York in the 1920s Is that a pet, you know, a paid by coin kind of virtual experience in the destination can produce. So those are some of the I like I said, more questions than answers. But I think that's where you should start playing is thinking about gamifying, the travel experience, you're never a regular travel but augmenting it because that makes not just maybe some income but another marketing channel for you. Yeah, yeah,

Annie Holcombe:

that's interesting. I, my son and my husband do virtual reality, Star Wars and some of those. It's crazy. It's crazy to think that you could let your I don't I just don't know that I could let myself go into a virtual world because I'm like, very, I'm tactile, I need to feel it and touch it and, you know, wind in my face. And maybe maybe that's where this all evolved to is you Well, it does. Why would you listen to

Jennifer Barbee:

a fan? There's definitely developments in that for the experience of, you know, a more physical experience as well as a as a mind experience happening. But that's where I think, you know, people who are interested in different times or experiences that don't happen in the destination anymore. That's why I mentioned you know, like, time travel is possible. If we get it together. And in the metaverse.

Annie Holcombe:

Well, it'd be interesting to see. And I think I worry about, like the destinations that I haven't been able to get to in Europe and things that are happening with global warming and stuff being you know, eroding away and things that we'll never get to experience. And I think that's exactly where for me that experience that Metaverse would be really beneficial. I would want to go experience all these things that probably aren't gonna exist by the time I get to go, you know, the time to go do it.

Jennifer Barbee:

Right. But I also think it's a potential precursor. Because if you go there, I mean, what do people always say you have to go there in the mind before you go there physically anyway. So those can be you know, during the pandemic, I'm not sure if you guys saw or not, but Amazon was actually a big retailer for virtual tour operators. And they did it in real life. So you had a real person there, you could buy tour, and have that experience. So I still think those are precursors, whether it's virtual reality, Metaverse, or, you know, a guided tour that you're watching on YouTube, those are all marketing precursors.

Alex Husner:

When you think I mean, the inspiration phase before you go on vacation, even if it's not to that level, you're going back to that website, you're looking at pictures, you're looking at the videos. I know I do that. So it's like, that's the buildup, and that's so much, you know, that's such a big part of Yeah, guest experience, and that just the experience of vacation in general. And, you know, I think the brands that are doing it well, right now, that, you know, especially vacation rentals, a lot of our guests, they're booking six to 12 months in advance. I mean, they're these are big condos, and they're bringing a lot of people with them. So this is a you know, a lead up there. But you know, how are you how are you communicating with them from the time of booking to when they get there, and what what information are you keeping in front of them to keep them excited about coming that also helps to, you know, minimize cancellations, right? I

Jennifer Barbee:

mean, I left out the whole experience. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

the metaverse stuff is just to the nth degree, but

Jennifer Barbee:

I don't think the metaverse is gonna replace But just like, you know, when we were, you know, pushing demo websites before OTAs even got big I mean Expedia existed. But no one really knew who it was when the demos first got in the market, right, but they didn't want to get in the market. So guess what they lost a big opportunity with with OTAs coming in, which redefine their place in the market versus someone like an OTA. That's what I see about the metaverse is it's going to happen. They're going to develop some some kids Silicon Valley is going to make a virtual Las Vegas if Las Vegas says it. Yeah, I think it's only a matter of time. And that's where I say it's probably going to be tinfoil hat me talking about this just like 90s. About web sites. Yeah. But I think if you don't, it's going to be snooze or lose. Someone else is going to do it. So you guys will own your brand. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah, it's better to better to be an early adopter, get in there first and try it and be on the sidelines. Well, Jennifer, we appreciate you being here so much today. And I think we just want to wrap up with what what's one piece of advice that you could you would give to destination marketing organizations for 2022? If there's one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jennifer Barbee:

Stay curious.

Alex Husner:

Oh, I love that. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Barbee:

Let's make that sparks everything else. I think you stay in the mind of curiosity that you never get bored. You're always learning. And you're always opening yourself up for a calculated risk,

Alex Husner:

just like growth mindset, right? I mean, growth mindset. Curiosity is a big part of that, that you wants to you want to continuously keep learning. And you got to be curious to learn. So that's great advice. Well, again, thank you so much for being here. We're going to have some other. We've got Stuart Butler coming on the show here soon. And we want to really branch out and get some more destination marketing professionals like, like yourself on here to talk about these issues, because I think they're really timely and important for our industry and just travel in general, but we appreciate you coming on.

Jennifer Barbee:

Well, thank you so much. I enjoyed the conversation. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Thank you, Jennifer. Awesome. Thanks, everybody. We'll talk to you next time. Bye.